A Comet Twice the Size of Rhode Island — the Biggest Ever Seen — Is Heading Towards Our Sun It's traveling at 22,000 miles an hour.

By Amanda Breen

entrepreneur daily

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has calculated the size of a massive comet nucleus observed last year, and it's the largest ever spotted, measuring 80 miles across —about twice the width of Rhode Island — and weighing 500 trillion tons.

For comparison, most comets are just a few miles wide and would fit inside a small town, but the gigantic discovery, called Comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein), boasts a nucleus that's 50 times larger than those of most known comets and a mass that's 100,000 times greater than that of a typical comet found near the sun.

The former record holder, discovered in 2002 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project, had a nucleus estimated to be 60 miles across.

Related: Hubble Spots Most Distant Star Ever, Getting a Literal Look Back in Time

Despite being a standout for its size, C/2014 UN271 is likely one of many yet to be spotted. "This comet is literally the tip of the iceberg for many thousands of comets that are too faint to see in the more distant parts of the solar system," says David Jewitt, a professor of planetary science and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). "We've always suspected this comet had to be big because it is so bright at such a large distance. Now we confirm it is."

The 4-billion-year-old comet was first spotted in November 2010 by astronomers Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein in archival images from the Dark Energy Survey at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. At that time, it was 3 billion miles from the sun, and though it's heading towards our sun at a rate of 22,000 miles an hour, researchers say it will never get closer than one billion miles away, a bit farther than the planet Saturn — and it won't get there until 2031.

Related: Potentially Hazardous Asteroid as Big as the Empire State Building Will Fly Uncomfortably Close to Earth. Today.

The comet is believed to originate from the Oort Cloud, a hypothesized nesting ground of trillions of comets first theorized by Dutch astronomer Jan Oort in 1950, but the cloud's existence remains unconfirmed as the comets are too faint and distant to be observed directly.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Business News

Grads From This Midwestern School Are More Likely to Start a Billion Dollar Company Than Founders Who Went To Stanford, Harvard, or MIT: Study

Some surprising schools outranked Ivy League universities with the likelihood that their grads would found a unicorn.

Business News

It's Leap Day, and You're Probably Working — Here's How 'February 29' Affects Your Paycheck

One key distinction could determine if you see extra cash this year.

Business Culture

How to Find Your Place in an Increasingly Displaced Workspace

When selected and managed deliberately, "place" can become a powerful tool for organizational success.

Side Hustle

Getting Laid Off Allowed Him to Focus on His Sentimental Side Hustle. Now He's on Track to Earn Over $700,000 in 2024.

Alaa El Ghatit wasn't fulfilled at his day job. So he started LifeOnRecord to help people record memories and well wishes.

Making a Change

Get a Lifetime of StackSkills Courses for Just $39.97

Learn from home with access to more than 1,000 online courses.